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    A Secret Statistic For 2014 Fantasy Baseball Pitchers

    RotoExperts Staff March 3, 2014 2:00PM EDT
    Unlike the other major Fantasy sports, baseball owners eat up statistics. We’re not talking your basic statistics either. Football has some deeper stats, basketball has its fair share and even NASCAR has a decent amount with its Loop Data. Yet, baseball digs deeper than any other with owners salivating for more.

    Just take a few minutes to peruse a pitcher’s page at Fangraphs. After your typical 5×5 categories (ERA, WHIP, Ks, Wins, Saves), there are 10 more advanced statistics just on the “main section.” Scroll down, and you will uncover a bevy of deeper statistics, or metrics if you will. We’re talking well over a hundred with many looking like something from a calculus class. Ever wondered what a pitcher’s Average Leverage Index when Entering a Game (gmLI) was? Well, now you can find out… while researching what a Leverage Index even is. It’s enough to make your head spin.

    So where do you begin and end when trying to use advanced metrics to better your Fantasy Baseball knowledge? I recommend a selective few in my Advanced Pitching Statistics breakdown. However, there is one that I mention that you can’t find on any site, yet I truly believe it should be one of your main go-to stats this, or any, season. That is Strikeout Minus Base on Ball Percentage, or SOBB.

    In any case, there are a few reasons that I now use this stat every year, even though I have to calculate it myself. Truthfully, it’s not that hard. If you want the “real” number, it’s (Strikeouts – Base on Balls)/Total Batters Faced. However, just taking K% and subtracting BB% gets you nearly the same number. We’re talking hundredths in decimal places of a difference. As for the reasons, first, I use Strikeout Percentage (K%) and Base on Balls Percentage (BB%) over K/9 and BB/9 rates because it gives us a clearer picture. By using the percentages, you account for the pitchers who face more batters in an inning.

    Tony_Cingrani

    Tony Cingrani compares favorably to Stephen Strasburg in SOBB. Photo Credit: plutonius_foto

    The simplest way to look at it is the rare four-strikeout inning. Let’s say the catcher allows a passed ball on a strikeout and the runner reaches first base. Now, let’s say the pitcher walks the next batter, and then retires the next three hitters via strikeouts. That pitcher now has a K/9 of 36.0 and BB/9 of 9.0. However, the pitcher’s K% is 80 percent and BB% is 20 percent. If the pitcher had simply struck out three batters with no passed ball or walk, his K% would be 100 percent.

    I’ll give you a real world example since those numbers are extreme. We all know Clayton Kershaw is arguably the game’s best pitcher. Did you know that Ubaldo Jimenez had a better K/9 last year? Probably not. Kershaw’s K/9 was 8.85, while Jimenez had a 9.56 mark. The average fan would say, wow, Jimenez was a better strikeout pitcher with almost a batter more per nine innings. But hold on. Kershaw had the better K% at 25.6, while Jimenez checked in at 25.0. Now, Jimenez is obviously still a great strikeout pitcher, but he’s not better than Kershaw. The reason Jimenez had a worse K% is because he walked significantly more batters – 3.94 BB/9 and 10.3 BB% compared to 1.98/5.7 for Kershaw. See the difference?

    The second reason I use this statistic is partly for what you just saw. Taking K% or BB% on its own isn’t as effective as using them in conjunction. Let’s go back to Kershaw and Jimenez. Kershaw has a SOBB of 19.9 percent, while Jimenez sits at 14.7. That’s a significant gap, and it shows how much more volatile Jimenez is as a pitcher. Even though both are above the average (SOBB norm around 11-12), it’s that volatility that makes Jimenez riskier and more prone to the “luck” metrics such as BABIP, HR/FB, etc.

    R.A. Dickey shows us a good example of how to use this to evaluate a pitcher’s season.

    Year

    K%

    BB%

    HR/9

    LOB%

    SOBB

    ERA

    2008

    11.60%

    10.20%

    1.20

    71.8%

    1.40%

    5.21

    2009

    14.30%

    10.20%

    1.12

    76.5%

    4.10%

    4.62

    2010

    14.60%

    5.90%

    0.67

    77.3%

    8.70%

    2.84

    2011

    15.30%

    6.20%

    0.78

    75.1%

    9.10%

    3.28

    2012

    24.80%

    5.80%

    0.92

    80.0%

    19.00%

    2.73

    2013

    18.80%

    7.50%

    1.40

    73.2%

    11.30%

    4.21

     

    Dickey improved his SOBB yearly into his Cy Young contending season with the Mets in 2012. Last year, Dickey struggled and not surprisingly, his SOBB dropped nearly eight points. As mentioned, that made him more susceptible to luck, and with a decrease in LOB% and jump in HR/9, Dickey’s 2013 season was a disappointment.

    There is more evidence of SOBB pointing to improved seasons or a decline in performance. Justin Verlander posted his worst SOBB since 2008, which was also a 3.3-point drop from 2012. Not surprisingly, it was Verlander’s highest season ERA since 2008. Jarrod Parker struggled to repeat his success and finished with a 3.97 ERA, even with a lucky .260 BABIP, because his SOBB came in low again at 8.7 percent.

    Teammates Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman proved the Kershaw/Jimenez point in that you can have differing ways for success with similar SOBB marks. Gonzalez had a 14.1 percentage and Zimmerman 14.0. Yet, Zimmerman had a lower K/9 at 6.79, while Gonzalez checked in at 8.83, as he also more than doubled Zimmerman’s BB/9 mark (3.5 to 1.69).

    Even though Tony Cingrani was a bit wild, he had rather similar numbers to one Stephen Strasburg, as they both had an 18.4 SOBB and ERAs within eight points of each other (2.92 Cingrani, 3.00 Strasburg). Hisashi Iwakuma was able to post such a great ERA (2.66) even though he had a relatively average K/9 of 7.58 because of his high 16.5 SOBB.

    It’s all simple math truly, and you can use it to gauge a pitcher’s overall effectiveness in limiting potential damage. You don’t have to be a strikeout artist, as even Hiroki Kuroda had a solid 13.0 SOBB with just a below average 6.71 K/9. However, more strikeouts do give a pitcher a better chance at posting a better mark, and obviously, a better chance at being an effective pitcher. That’s why 46 of the 82 pitchers (56.1 percent) with a SOBB of 12 or worse had an ERA over 4.00, whereas just nine of the 63 (14.3 percent) with a mark over 12 did the same.

    Like any Fantasy Baseball statistic, this isn’t the be-all-end-all stat for your success. However, it’s an extremely valuable one, and a stat that you should start using today if you want to improve your odds at winning.

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